BARRIGADA, Guam – During a time of great uncertainty, when the world is navigating to define a new normal, members of the Guam National Guard (GUNG) find comfort in service knowing their loved ones are near and are not alone.
Lt. Col. Marleen Tarusan-Legaspi and her son Pfc. Nikolas Legaspi, are two of those Guard members. The past few months have allowed them to serve shoulder-to-shoulder during the COVID-19 response.
Tarusan-Legaspi serves as the J1 for the GUNG’s Joint Task Force 671, managing personnel accountability, strength reporting, and manpower management, all focal points for a joint task force during an operation supporting civil authorities. Legaspi is part of JTF 671’s Task Force Shield and was assigned to Task Force Response, providing operational support and security for various mission assignments.
“I’m very proud that we’re able to work alongside each other,” said Tarusan-Legaspi. “For me, I was more concerned about his safety, because COVID-19 is different than anything we’ve seen before. I’ve worked several state active duty missions before, but this response is different due to the unknown variables of the pandemic.”
The response is Legaspi’s first mission. He said he’s proud to serve at home helping his family, friends and fellow Guamanians.
“I thought it would be a good way to help the community and raise awareness with my friends and family about the seriousness of the pandemic,” he said. “I’m always reminding my friends and family that the National Guard is here because our island needs us. We’re here to protect our island.”
Though their jobs are different, Tarusan-Legaspi is glad she and her son can work together, as it allows them to share their experiences specific to the response, providing her a sense of comfort.
“In any aspect of the Guard, we are here to support. One of our missions is to be there anytime and anywhere our community needs us,” she said. “I’m very glad that we’re in this together, and I like the fact that I know what he’s doing and that he’s safe. It’s very different than when he left for basic training because I really felt disconnected from him. Having him here has been reassuring for me and has put me a little more at ease.”
Though his parents both served in the National Guard, Legaspi didn’t initially intend to join. However, he raised his hand in 2018, after he and a family member decided to experience something new in life while making a difference in their community.
“I wanted to experience for myself what the National Guard had to offer. I didn’t know too much about the military; I just knew my parents were both officers in the military,” he said. “I enlisted with Pfc. (Christopher) Timeteo, and we really didn’t know a lot about the Guard. It was a spur of the moment, and we wanted to make a change. It was a fresh start for both of us.”
Though she was off-island when Legaspi decided to enlist, Tarusan-Legaspi proudly swore in her son and nephew and shared lessons she learned after serving more than 30 years.
“I was actually in Kansas for about a year, and I came home and found out he decided to take a pause in school and do something different,” she said. “I told him that I would support him in whatever path he decides to follow.
“Everything I’ve learned in my career and through my achievements, I let him know there are certain things we need to look out for. It’s not just about ourselves, but our fellow Soldiers. I let him know that as a private first class, and as a Soldier, you need to take care of those around you.”
Legaspi takes a page from his parents’ playbook and applies their lessons while serving.
“It’s a good feeling to serve with my mom; I always have a mentor,” he said. “Whenever I have a question that I don’t know the answer to, I can always turn to her. I feel good because I’m following in her and my dad’s footsteps. Where she’s at is somewhere I aspire to be and it’s an achievable goal. It’s just going to take some time.”